[FORUM]The Roh camp’s three spring days

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[FORUM]The Roh camp’s three spring days

“We have seen three spring days.” As poetic as it might sound, the comment holds an explosive secret. The underlying metaphor is three “cash showers” that came to the Roh Moo-hyun camp during and right after the presidential election campaign last year.
The first coincided with the Gwangju primary, which paved the way for Mr. Roh to be the Millennium Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, the second was a single candidacy with Chung Mong-joon, and the last cash strike was after Mr. Roh was elected president.
Anyone who was involved in the presidential election would understand the meaning of the “spring days.”
When Lee Hoi-chang, the candidate for the opposition Grand National Party, was leading in the opinion polls in November 2002, five business giants secretly donated over 50 billion won in cash.
In retrospect, it is hard to presume that the companies, which had made an “insurance” donation of 10 billion won each to Mr. Lee, could ignore Mr. Roh when he was leading in the polls during the official election campaign period.
In particular, Mr. Roh’s electioneers were busy collecting donations during the campaign period. Even if there had been no dealing between the companies and Mr. Roh’s camp, could they really ignore Mr. Roh after the election victory?
Since the authorities could find out about virtually all campaign fund transactions, the companies must have feared that their link with Mr. Lee could backfire.
Also, cash gifts to congratulate the winner of an election were a customary practice. We can get a glimpse of the custom from the recent controversy over SK Group’s providing 1.1 billion won to Choi Do-sul, the former secretary for general affairs.
The prosecutors triumphed in their investigation into the illegal campaign fund scandals associated with Mr. Lee’s camp. The public might hope to hear of a similar outcome from the probe into Mr. Roh’s side, but there hasn’t been any substantial finding.
When the calls for an independent counsel to investigate the scandals involving Mr. Roh’s aides created turmoil in the National Assembly, the prosecutors reopened the Sun & Moon Group case, which had been virtually concluded.
The public is understandably upset and doubts the prosecutors’ competence. While the prosecutors have asked the citizens to wait for more results, they have not yet shown any efforts to really tackle the scandals related to Mr. Roh.
While it is still too early to render a final verdict, voters wonder what makes the prosecutors so reluctant.
Is it because Mr. Roh really carried out his campaign fair and square with a fund created from small donations as he promised? Or is it because Mr. Roh had repeatedly claimed that his illegal campaign funds were only one tenth those of the opposition party? Have the prosecutors returned to the old habit of protecting the Blue House?
The investigation into the presidential campaign financing has revealed the crooked image of the “piggy bank drive.” Even so, the prosecutors have uncovered only 2 billion won in a slush fund, a fraction of the alleged size.
Who would believe that the prosecutors lack the ability to tackle the scandals involving Mr. Roh? The citizens who have applauded the unbiased spirit of the prosecutors are puzzled.
It might be the case that the prosecutors would not dare to find evidence contrary to the president’s public announcement.
Perhaps they would not want to make the Blue House their enemy when Mr. Roh would be in power for four more years.
While we truly hope that the assumptions turn out to be baseless, the sudden reopening of the Sun & Moon case and the stalled progress of the investigation into Mr. Roh’s campaign financing only increase doubt about the prosecutors’ reliability.
We might have to give up hope for a truly independent prosecution. The prosecutors might satisfy themselves by returning to the old days when they were slaves of those in power.
But what about the country’s constitutionalism? If the struggle for democracy has been to ultimately establish true equality and constitutionalism, the prosecutors must not betray the citizens.
The prosecutors should behave in a manner deserving of ovations. We want to respect the prosecutors as our role models.
If the military is responsible for the external protection of the country, the prosecutors are the nation’s main means to eliminate internal enemies, such as corruption and crime.
The country can survive only when the prosecutors value the law and democracy. In the new year, we hope to see the prosecutors become worthy of the citizens’ respect.

* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Sioux Lee
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